Heart Disease and Your Pet

People are not the only ones at risk for heart disease. Dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and even iguanas can develop heart disease. Undiagnosed and untreated heart disease can lead to heart failure and, ultimately, death. With all the news articles related to grain-free dog foods and the link to heart disease, we’re sure you’ll want to learn more.

One of the hardest aspects of our job is informing pet parents that their beloved pets are ill. This is particularly difficult when their pet’s illness is something as serious as heart disease. Once a pet has entered congestive heart failure, there’s no cure. We know this is crushing to hear.

So, what do you need to know and do to your pet’s precious heart?

Heart Disease in Dogs

Heart disease affects about 10% of dogs. That’s 7.8 million dogs in the United States. Heart disease is in dogs isn’t caused by a nibble of McDonald’s double cheeseburger or a bit of bacon every now and then. In fact, dog risk factors are quite different than those that affect people.

The Most Common Canine Heart Disease

Them most common form of heart disease found in dogs is one that most people have never even heard of: canine valvular disease. Valvular disease makes up about 75% of heart disease in dogs. Valvular disease mostly dogs affects small breed adult dogs, although it is also found in some medium and large dogs as well.

What is Valvular Disease?

Your dog’s heart is actually a lot like yours: four chambers made of muscle that pump blood through your dog’s body. Their hearts also have valves, like ours, that keep blood flowing in the right direction. When a dog develops valvular heart disease, their valves begin to break down and distort in shape, becoming less effective at keeping the blood flowing correctly. Over time, the heart has to pump more and more blood to keep up, causing it to enlarge and lose its effectiveness. After a point the heart cannot keep up, resulting in heart failure.

Other Canine Heart Diseases

One stat that continues to break our hearts is that 13% of canine heart disease could be prevented with medication. Did you guess which one we’re talking about? Heartworm disease. Other canine heart diseases include myocardial disease and dilated cardiomyopathy (which mostly affects large breed dogs at any age).

Heart Disease in Cats

Don’t believe the memes--cats, in fact, do have hearts and their feline hearts are vital to keeping them knocking your pens off coffee tables for years to come. 10% of cats suffer from heart diseases. What heart diseases can keep your kitty from living her life to the fullest?

Cats can be born with heart irregularities or develop heart disease over the course of their lives. Problems related to cat heart health include murmurs, tears, and weakening of heart valves and heart walls. All of these are dangerous and, if left undiagnosed or untreated, can cause heart failure.

Heart Disease in Other Pets

Because all pets have hearts, they’re all susceptible to heart disease and failure. The causes and risk factors may be different, but the result of undiagnosed heart disease is the same.

Heart disease is a significant health problem for ferrets and rabbits, just like cats and dogs. And heart failure also threatens the lives of reptiles, although they are less often studied.

What You Need to Know About Grain-Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

The FDA is currently investigating the connection between grain-free dog food and heart disease and has not yet reached a conclusion. While this doesn’t mean there is a proven connection between the two, the FDA did see an increase of heart disease in dogs that wouldn’t normally be prone to heart issues which may have a link between their diets so they are currently looking into it.

If you have questions about your dog’s diet, we have answers.

Signs and Symptoms of Pet Heart Disease

One of the toughest aspects of pet heart disease is that the early stages often shows no symptoms. It’s not until heart disease has progressed that many pets show signs like lethargy, trouble breathing, weight loss, a bloated belly, and coughing.

Why don’t pets show early symptoms? Their bodies are able to keep up as their heart compensate by enlarging. But this only works for so long.

This is why it is absolutely essential that you don’t skip your pet’s annual veterinary appointments. We can listen to your pet’s heart and determine if it is in good health. We can also prescribe heartworm prevention to keep your pet’s heart healthy and protected.

Often diagnosing a heart problem starts with a simple annual exam. If your pet is due for a checkup, we’ll gladly listen to her heart and check for any other signs of illness.

Photo Credit: epatrician

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